Three days before Christmas, a barrier broke and toxic sludge spilled across 300 acres in Roane County, Tennessee. Now much of this land is under six feet of sludge. This Tennessee coal plant created, for the United States, the largest environmental disaster.
A forty-acre pond containing toxic coal ash has collapsed, spilling out millions of gallons of coal ash. Environmentalists say the spill is more than thirty times larger than the Exxon Valdez, but the story has received little national attention.
2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled out of the retention pond, burying homes and roads. The sludge has flowed into the Emory River, a tributary of the Tennessee River, which provides drinking water to millions of people downstream in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.
Greenpeace warned that coal ash typically contains high concentrations of toxic chemicals like mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals.
An update from Reuters in April:
“Our testing has revealed the far-reaching damage this spill has caused to this community, imperiling people`s health, and devaluing property,” said Robin Greenwald, head of the Toxic Torts unit at Weitz & Luxenberg.
Lab tests of the TVA coal ash sludge revealed numerous potentially harmful metals, including arsenic, which was the highest in concentration. One sample showed 75 parts per million and the second composite showed 91 ppm. EPA has set the arsenic standard for drinking water at 0.010 parts per million. This data appears consistent with results reported by the Environmental Protection Agency and TVA. Collectively, they reveal that arsenic exposure is likely major concern to area residents. Additionally, surface water samples were collected and tested for arsenic, which was detected at low levels. That finding indicates that vigilant monitoring should continue.
AC360 update, in July, about the health issues that are arising in the disaster area. Erin Brockovich has been asked to help these people in Tennessee whose fears are mounting.
They are now having difficulty breathing and have developed skin rashes, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems. What’s worse is that they are being told that these materials can’t harm them, yet their bodies tell them otherwise.